It is to be recalled that Eritrea’s envoy has participated in the 28th meeting of UN Human Rights Council which was held from 2nd to 27th March 2015 in Geneva. With this regard, local media outlets have conducted an interview with Ambassador Tesfamichael Gerahtu and Mr. Adem Osman from Ministry of Foreign affairs. Excerpts of the Interview follow:
Why smearing campaign against Eritrea on the issue of human rights and who are the fabricators of the allegations?
Mr. Tesfamichael Gerahtu
Two points need to be put into consideration while discussing the baseless allegations against Eritrea. The ploys are not only targeting Eritrea. One needs to take into account that such conspiracy has also been exercised on a number of countries. Eritrea is, in the first place, a country which evolved from the struggle for the respect of human rights. Passing through bitter struggle and paying huge sacrifice, we set out to engage ourselves in the nation building process. All the different schemes we are witnessing today are aimed at hindering our development programs and above all our national integrity. What we have seen since independence and particularly in the past 17 years are all directed towards forcing us make compromises so as to satisfy their vested interests. There have been a number of disguised agendas that begun before TPLF’s invasion. What continued during the failed TPLF’s aggression and afterwards such as: attempts of creating political chaos, polarization of Eritreans in the name of religion, and above all extensive campaigns of psychological warfare to weaken the productivity of youths and thereby to decline Eritrea’s economy have been among the futile plots. Such failures have dragged the plotters to falsely accuse Eritrea of supporting Somali rebels and managed to pass sanctions resolution based on groundless allegations. All sorts of interwoven schemes have been tried out. However, sanction has not yield the desired outcome and thus they are now raising the issue of human rights. A number of unjustifiable allegations that would not correspond with the objective situations of the country have now been fabricated.
The issue of human rights in Eritrea has been an integral part of nation building process. It has been mainstreamed with the country’s development programs. Integrated with societal activities of the people, it has been practiced in all sectors. So far, we have travelled a long journey. But, as a new country, we do have challenges to be addressed. TPLF’s invasion of Eritrea’s sovereign land is among the main violation of the rights of the Eritrean people. The unjustifiable sanctions imposed on Eritrea and subversive dreams that tend to overthrow the Eritrean government are all meant to keep us hostage and if possible to halt the implementation of all set out development plans. The hostile acts have now been continued under the pretext of the issue of human rights.
Who are those behind the hostile acts?
The US along with its accomplices has been in the forefront of the fabrications. All the allegations have been designed to hijack our independent political path. The US and its accomplices have now begun to use the issue of human rights to attain their vested ends. As a country, it is our genuine right to exert efforts in building our nation. Above anything, we need peace to carry out our development programs. What we always look for is a region free of any threat and hostility. So, our sovereignty and territorial integrity needs to be respected. We are always keen to bring a phased transformation. Those who are not ready to see a difference are now creating a new front in the name of human rights. As the sanctions imposed on Eritrea have not met their malicious desire, they are ceaselessly working to put the country in a loop.
What exactly is the root cause of the accusations?
There are some points that should be taken into account. As I have said earlier, efforts have been exerted to see the issue of human rights mainstreamed with the nation-building process and we have made huge achievement in this regard. Nation building is a task of generations. It is in fact very demanding in terms of time, organization and resources. As a new nation, we do have challenges that are yet to be addressed. But, what has been attempted is to relate every challenge with politics. Most of the accusations are intangible and nonexistent. At times, they have been trying to portray the country’s image badly. Eritrea has been described as a hell and without a government where everybody is persecuted in the streets. It has been said that there is no development and the country has been retrograded due to national service program. There have been numerous fabrications that even disseminate as if women have been reaped everywhere.
Nation building process has its own difficulties. What is expected of any concerned body is to play a role of partnership in the effort we have been exerting to address the challenges. The issue mainly concerns us and what we expect from partners is not more than making whatever contribution in accelerating the pledge we have to build our nation and the human rights issue mainstreamed along with. Redoubling the efforts we have been exerting based on our internal dynamics and speeding up its outcome through making some reforms and an upgrading our national resources is what could bring a solution to the challenges we have. No development could be achieved through targeting a country with an aim of making it succumb to a vested political agenda. We do believe the development undertaking we have accomplished so far needs to be by far extended and this has been at the top of Government’s strategy.
Human right is inseparable part of human dignity. Efforts that have been made in this country to attain human dignity are not to be viewed lightly. It is when human dignity is respected that human rights are as well realized. We struggled and pay sacrifices for the respect of human dignity and since we have evolved from that set of principle, we are working for betterment of living standards. Huge investment has been made in the improvement of lifestyle of nationals. Human development is also another area which we have been stressing on. Collectively, Eritrea has made extensive progress in this area. However, nation building is not an easy task and it should be remembered that we have a long journey to go. Trying to distort the image of this country through bringing unreliable accusations is worthless.
Mr. Adem Osman
There is no political ground to undermine Eritrea’s national laws. Eritrea is a member of the UN. So, any member of the UN has its own local rules and regulations. National Service is a program which is carried out based on the national law. Based on the national proclamation the national service should have a definite time of 18 months. But, this national service has been extended due to the objective situations in the country and thus it has now become an issue. “Indefinite” is the term used to refer to the length of national service which has been extended for a known reason. Nevertheless, it is not right to see things separately for a context. Leaving everything behind, Eritreans have been paying huge sacrifice for a national cause- to safeguard their sovereignty. Thus, leaving TPLF’s invasion aside, the Eritrean government is being accused of the issue of national service. The pro¬longed national service is, in the first place, a burden for the Eritrean government. Yes, there is a prolonged national service, but it would not be an issue had the peace agreement reached in Algiers implemented on the ground. The respect of the final and binding ruling is the immediate solution. The issue of human rights in the name of prolonged national ser¬vice is rather raised to sabotage Eritrea.
How is the national resolute rebuff against the continuous acts of hostility being handled?
Ambassador Tesfamichael Gerahtu
The nation building process we have been carrying out towards achieving sustainable development is the fundamental goal and a solution to the hostile acts. Hence, we should mainly concentrate on redoubling the efforts in the implementation of the already set out development programs. We are now on a better stand to make a great leap in our development programs. What we need is to make some rearrangements in terms of capital enhancement and refinement of programs, reinforcement of the independent political path we have consistently been adhering to and collectively to strengthen our internal dynamics towards making a difference. Provision of equal access to social services throughout the nation has been among the major goals of the post independence period. Thus, utmost priority has been given to the less advantaged areas. Provision of equal access to all sorts of services in every part of this country where every citizen benefited from is to be viewed in line with the respect of human rights. Efforts that have been exerted to by far improve social services are now in the right direction.
What is more is that efforts have been made towards improving the living standards of nationals. Investments so far made in food security, provision of potable water, healthcare facilities, education, environmental protection, social security among others is indeed remarkable. Endeavors that have been made in the realization of sustainable economic development are very noticeable. Activate involvement of people in all development activities which starts from the very grassroots level and that goes up to the participation of different administrative, societal and political institutions is highly vivid. Collectively, extensive efforts have been exerted in all sectors and a strong foundation has been laid. All those who have been hostile against us do not believe in the right to development. These are just governments who have been representatives for the interests of corporations. If they stand against development activities of countries, they are giving priority to the interests of corporations. As a country, our right to development has been violated and this greatly affects human rights and all the efforts we continued to exert in different sectors.
Our commitment towards securing peace and stability has been threatened through invasion and other malicious acts. We have been giving utmost priority to our domestic efforts that are directed towards creating a foundation for sustainable development. Such domestic efforts have huge impact to tackle the different ploys that have been exercised against us, our diplomatic efforts are equally important though. Hence, we have been strengthening ties at international level with respect to development diplomacy. In this regard, we have attended the meeting on human rights held in Geneva. There, we clarified our development agenda and rejected the ploys that have been interwoven just to quench vested political interests of its fabricators and to thereby to interrupt our development activities. We stand against the schemes and a number of countries have also refused such accusations. We have not only rejected the baseless accusations based on our independent political path but for such acts are also against the basic principles of the UN charter. What we are saying is quit targeting Eritrea and let’s jointly work on the enhancement of development partnership pursuant to UN principles.
The Eritrean government is in the first place accountable to its people rather than to reporting obligation. Huge progress has been registered in the country. Thus, how the living standards of the Eritrean people would be improved needs to be the focal issue. We do, of course, have an obligation to present Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to the UN. We have been taking the UPR as a venue where we share experiences with a number of countries. There, we share our experiences and also take constructive recommendations obtained from such interactions.
Mr. Adem, is it legal to establish a commission of human rights in¬quiry or special rapporteur in Eritrea, and what is the country’s take on this issue?
There was a commission which tries to see issues based on alleged reports and has been showing partialities in its actions. But, the UPR is what we expected would have a balanced outlook on all countries of the world. Hence, countries have to bring their reports to this new council in 4 years of time. The UPR is a venue where different nations share experiences and forward suggestions. This council has made it clear that it would not entertain agendas that target countries but rather encourages ideas or strategies that could enhance the status of human rights. This council also works for the reinforcement of Institution Building (IB). It rejects politically motivated agendas and addresses human rights based on universal principles. What all countries do not accept is item four of the council’s article. This particular item is not accepted by the AU. Special rapporteur and commission of inquiry which pinpoint issues in particular countries based on vested political motives are among those not accepted ones. Eritrea is not only known for the respect of the rights of its people but also for respecting the rights of prisoners of war during the struggle for independence. We do not accept such inquires for it has been raised by countries that try to implement their political whims in the country. But, we are making discussions with High Commissioner of the UN and other representatives in the UN with regards development activities that have been carried out in the country. We have also presented our UPR in 2009 and also in February 2015. We have made it clear that the rights of the Eritrean people- their right to live in an atmosphere of peace- have been violated due to the TPLF’s invasion. What we are asking for is to basically resolve this issue and this would take us towards making a great leap in all sorts of development undertakings. We have been reflecting the achievement so far accomplished based on our commitment to improve the living standards of the Eritrean people and shared best practices which have been tried in the country and proven to be successful. No matter what the accusations are, we will stay committed in our obligation to improve the life¬style of the Eritrean people.
What needs to be clear in here is that some documents leaked from the TPLF regime show that Ethiopia depending on US has been working to tighten the sanctions resolution imposed against Eritrea. Since the target they intend to hit has not yet realized and sanction has not been supported by a number of countries, Ethiopia has raised the issue of human rights as a means to tighten sanctions against Eritrea. It is in the light of such conspiracy that the human rights issue has been raised. Three futile attempts were made by Ethiopia and the US to file a case in the Human Rights Council of the UN. They played a game to make it seem as if indorsed by some African states. We are generally strengthening ties at international level and particularly with countries that have independent policies which is very close to that of ours. We have been fighting against the anti Eritrea diplomatic encirclement campaigns in the past 15 years.
Any last message you would like to convey?
Ideological apparatus of the western countries such as their media, cultural institutions, nongovernmental and religious institutions among others are opening a front against Eritrea. What they are at-tempting, as a long term plan, is to erode our values and national unity with the aim of destroying our patriotic feelings and that of being a nation. Disinformation has been their greatest tool to create confusion. That is why we need to strenuously work to depict the country’s true image to the world. What we need to understand is that all what has been said about the country are just part of the psychological warfare. We could fill the gaps and address the challenges we have sensibly once we are aware of the conspiracies. The Eritrean people are very strong and what we have to do is just to strengthen its active involvement in the far sighted vision of the Government. This strong unity between the people and Government of Eritrea which keeps the country intact should be maintained.